Your heart is racing. You just got into a car accident. You don’t know what to do. OK, you do know what to do – call the police. Call your insurer. But, what do you say to the cops when they arrive? You’ll have to file a police report. Fortunately, it’s not as bad as you might think it is, but there are a few things you do need to remember.
Write Down Details Immediately
Your memory starts to turn to jelly immediately after an accident. Start writing down as many facts as you can remember. Do it quickly. Get the make and model of all vehicles involved, write down the tags and the color of the vehicle. Get the names of everyone involved. Try to get their insurance information as well as their contact info.
If you’re the victim of a hit and run, try to at least get the tags – that will tell police everything they need to know to find them and arrest them.
Take Pictures of Everything
Police offers love facts, but pictures can tell police a lot of information too. Make sure you get wide-angle shots of the entire scene of the accident. Next, get close-up shots of any damage. Use a paperclip or some other object in the photo – place it next to a damaged part so that (later) the officer can remember the extent of the damage in case the report needs to be updated or altered.
Taking photos will also help you out with your insurance company. They’re going to want to know exactly what happened and how bad the damage is. Using markers that are easily identifiable will help adjusters make a proper determination.
Get The Officer’s Contact Information
You might need to update the police record with additional information. Even if you don’t, you may want to contact the officer to check on the status of your case – this is more important when the accident involved criminal activity or you are going to be involved in a civil suit with the other party.
Your officer might not have a direct line you can contact him or her on, but the police station’s general number should suffice. You just need some way to stay in contact with the person that fills out the report. That way, if you have questions or concerns later, or you can’t read the officer’s handwriting (which is more common that you would think), you have some way to follow up and get clarification on what was written down.
Call Your Insurer – Or Not
Your insurance company will probably want to know about the accident. However, even if you bought your policy through an agency like, you aren’t obligated to call your insurer. While it’s usually a good idea to call your insurer and file a claim, there are times when it can make sense for the other person to just write you a check for the damages. If you go this route, you’re taking a risk that the other person will just bail on you.
If that happens, you’ll be stuck fixing your vehicle by yourself. Of course, if you were the cause of the accident, you could save yourself points on your insurance by just offering to pay out of pocket.
John Young is passionate about helping people face life’s challenges. He does extensive research and blogs about responsibilities and options for facing difficult times.